Why this winter has been so cold and snowy

Surprise, surprise — it’s snowing in Vancouver. UBC has been changed into a winter wonderland of snow, ice, cold and slush.

With the sole exception of some dusting in December, 2015 saw no snowfall whereas 2016 was strikingly opposite. January 2016 recorded a meager 1 centimetres of snowfall compared to an astonishing 27.40 centimetres in December 2016.

What caused such heavy snowfall in Vancouver this winter?

Typically, when it rains or snows in Vancouver, the weather front carrying the rain comes from over the Pacific Ocean, explained David Siuta, an atmospheric science PhD student. This Pacific air is usually too warm to carry snow and it just rains.

“What we’ve seen this winter is something [different] and it’s really the only type of setup that will bring us snowfall in places like Vancouver,” said Siuta.

There have been high pressures to Vancouver’s west, over the North Pacific, and this has allowed air to flow in over Alaska all over BC.

“The northerly flow brings down cold air to just about all of British Columbia and that really is the only type of setup that will bring cold enough air to southern BC for [snowfall],” said Suita. “That’s exactly what caused [it] this year.”

It's difficult to predict whether there will be more snow in the future, as individual weather events are hard to predict.

This year’s snowfall has surprised almost everyone.